Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Although Trump won the election, fears of an American decline are premature

American elections are long nights. As the results rolled in Tuesday, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared to have a path to victory, but early Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump emerged the victor.

The polarization of American politics may never have been this stark, with Republicans running up big gains in rural and blue-collar counties in battleground states, even as the Democrats did well in the cities.

But with Mr. Trump winning, we need to remember something bigger – America is once again proving that it is a dynamic, contradictory, slightly crazy at times and perpetually surprising republic.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Donald Trump elected U.S. president in stunning upset

Read more: Hillary Clinton concedes after losing bid to become first female U.S. president

Doug Saunders: The average Trump supporter is not an economic loser

Mr. Trump's preening populism has proved incredibly robust. He has revealed the power of the emerging white working underclass, who must no longer be ignored in the rush to globalization.

But fears of an America in decline would be misplaced, even under a Trump presidency. Nothing can break the American spirit, which has prevailed against all comers.

Remember, the United States after Barack Obama has the Affordable Care Act, a plan to combat climate change, rapprochement with Cuba and gay marriage nationwide. How much of this record will a President Trump unravel? Some, no doubt, but Democrats in the Senate will still have the power of filibuster.

The economy is sound, with low unemployment. The federal deficit last year sat at 2.4 per cent of GDP, a quarter of where it was when Mr. Obama took office, even though – despite Mr. Trump's outlandish claims – the OECD still ranks the United States among the developed world's least-taxed nations.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Trump sees a failing American empire, done in by foreign quagmires and rising challengers. Really? Overseas troop deployments are down to where they were in the peaceful 1990s. And who threatens the American hegemony? Not China, with a population and economy that will start to decline in the next decade, thanks to that country's disastrous one-child policy. Not Russia, a corrupt, oil-dependent kleptocracy, a Venezuela-in-waiting.

America's cultural dominance surges from strength to strength: Netflix. HBO. Facebook. YouTube. The world is more American than ever before. Innovation? The Obama years brought us the smartphone, cloud computing, machine learning.

There is rising tension between African-Americans and police in some communities. But according to a 2015 Nielsen study, the African-American enrolment rate in postsecondary institutions, at 71 per cent, has surpassed the national average. The ultimate solution to racial inequality is sitting in class.

With a Trump win, it is easy to despair. We should all rightly fear that a Trump presidency will worsen divisions that exist, while creating new ones, especially with America's allies, including its staunchest ally: Canada. We should rightly fear his erratic disposition, the racism and misogyny he stokes, the trade wars he threatens.

But we need to remind each other: People have been betting against the United States for almost 2 1/2 centuries, and no one has collected yet. They're not going to collect this time, either.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Writer-at-large

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨